Cork a danger but hard not to see them swept away by new blue wave
Jim Gavin’s side favoured to win All-Ireland senior football championship quarter-final at Croke Park
It isn’t as though Dublin don’t have worries of their own. One of the most noteworthy aspects of their Leinster final win over Meath was the extent to which Jim Gavin has come to rely on his younger brigade: list the players who were substituted the further that game went on – Bernard Brogan, Diarmuid Connolly, Ger Brennan, Eoghan O’Gara, Cian O’Sullivan.
All-Ireland winners to a man just two summers ago yet all pulled from the fray as the likes of Jack McCaffrey, Ciarán Kilkenny and Paul Mannion were trusted with closing out the game.
The flipside, of course, is only a manager with a panel as deep as Gavin’s could take those players out of a provincial final and still kick on.
The introduction of Denis Bastick against Meath won them the game – or at least ended Meath’s best chance of taking it from them. He will certainly see game time this evening, possibly even from the beginning.
At any rate, it seems clear neither side will start as named.
While Cork certainly have the personnel to pressure Dublin at midfield in much the same way Meath did, their vulnerability at half-back is what will surely be their undoing.
They will most likely use James Loughrey to track Paul Flynn, which seems a waste of his talents, at best, and an invitation for Flynn to open up prairies of space in the Dublin forward line, at worst.
But potentially Cork’s most fatal weakness is on Loughrey’s inside where Graham Canty’s continued presence just isn’t working anymore.
Being exposed by the dynamic running of Donegal’s all-out attack in last year’s All-Ireland semi-final was one thing; chugging along in the wake of the classy but hardly quick-silver Seán Armstrong against Galway last weekend was another entirely.
For all that he is the spiritual core of the Cork defence, Canty looks ripe for the plucking by a Dublin side whose most obvious attribute is raw pace.
Cork’s first half against Donegal last year showed they still have a serious, tactically-disciplined performance in them.
But the way they folded in the period just before and after half-time betrayed a side equally capable of throwing their hat at a task when it becomes too arduous.
Dublin will run at them all night and when they’re done doing that, Gavin will throw on five subs who will run at them even harder.
Cork may well deal with the first wave but chances are the second will overwhelm them.